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4 things to know about COVID booster shots

The recent push for COVID-19 booster shots has left many with questions.

INDIANAPOLIS — The recent push for COVID-19 booster shots has left many with questions. 

We asked an expert with The Regenstrief Institute to break it down.    

1. What is the booster shot?  

To put it simply, it’s the same as the first and second dose you already received. Currently, only Pfizer and Moderna booster vaccines are up for discussion.  

“It’s an additional dose of the vaccine that is needed to sometimes periodically boost the immune system. It’s common for protection for vaccines to decrease over time,” said Dr. Shaun Grannis, vice president of data and analytics with Regenstrief Institute.  

2. How would the rollout work?

Assuming the FDA gives the green light, all adults would be eligible for a booster eight months after their second shot starting Sept. 20. This would automatically give priority to high-risk groups like health care workers and senior citizens.  

3. If I get the two shots but not the booster, am I no longer protected?

Studies show the vaccines’ effectiveness does decrease over time, so the booster shot would give an extra layer of protection, like many of the common vaccines.  

“You are adding to your protection and minimizing the likelihood that you’re impacted or become a carrier and spread it to other people,” Grannis said. 

4. Can you mix and match vaccines?

“We have some data that suggests that that might be a possibility for the United States, based on what we are seeing, but we will wait for those recommendations to come out,” Grannis said.  

For now, health leaders recommend you get the booster that matches your original shot, so for those that got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’ll have to wait a little bit longer.  

The timeline for a Johnson & Johnson booster shot is still up in the air, but what we know is the vaccine wasn't administered in the U.S. until March of this year and experts say they're still collecting data. 

If we look at the timeline for Moderna and Pfizer, their first doses were given in December and now eight to nine months later, they’re gearing up for the booster. 

If the J&J shot follows that timeline, a booster shot may not be available until October, but we don't know if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's protection will fade at the same rate as the other two. 

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